Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How Deep the Hatred

Bigotry is not new in America.  If you want to read about how politics has been shaped by fear and racism, try Limousine Liberal: How an Incendiary Image United the Right and Fractured America by Steve Fraser.  Or you may be able to, like me, simply reflect on the America where you grew up.

I lived in a little Italian community in a rural town in Rhode Island that became suburban during my childhood and teenage years.  My father, an Italian immigrant, would complain about "the frogs" who lived next door, threaten (privately) to "fix" neighbors who angered him by selling his vacant lots to blacks (I believe he said "negro"), and referred to my boyfriend as "that Jew."  For that matter, my future father-in-law, a Jewish man who was married to an Anglican, was incensed that his son was dating someone not Jewish.  In one rather hysterical family fight, he berated his son for going out with a "spaghetti-eater."  And then he threw the plate of spaghetti he was eating at the wall.

It is odd that those who were solidly members of groups who faced bigotry would be so quick to turn it on members of other groups.  Because I lived in a small Italian community, I did not hear the words "wop" and "guinea" until my first full-time supermarket job, and then it was a self-derogatory joke made by an old Italian meat-cutter.  I can only imagine the world of hate he had grown up in.

I was mostly unaware of any racial bigotry that might have been directed at me.  When I was a school psychologist on Long Island, the director once commiserated with me about Italian men, not realizing that I had kept my family name, thinking I had married an Italian. I believe she thought I was Jewish, as was she.  I am aware these days that I can pass for Jewish and Hispanic, but the features are not so distinct that it is ever a conscious part of my interactions with people.

It is so much a part of our heritage, to mistrust and hate those who are different than us, to feel threatened by their proximity, that we Americans are easy targets for anyone who seeks power.  Hence, the Donald Trump phenomenon.  Which has been brought to us by decades of right-wing rage targeting minorities.

Want to win an election?  Target a minority.

Just as in my mother's day Italians and Irish were called lazy and dirty, so have African-Americans and Mexicans.

Just as Jews have been persecuted for being sneaky and greedy, and for plotting control over whatever "civilization" happens to be feeling threatened, Moslems are now targeted as plotting to destroy "civilization."

Small people with perverse sexual obsessions have always in our society been fond of gay-bashing, when they aren't focused on what goes on in a woman's body without their approval.

As a woman who has not ever had to really face bigotry (only misogyny), I can't imagine how awful must be the threat of being targeted in America.  Show your papers.  Stop and frisk.  Driving while being black.  And Trump's outrages-of-the-day:  "We have to go and we have to maybe check, respectfully, the mosques" (six days ago).  Since he proposed the national database of Muslims last year when he was only a primary candidate, he apparently has realized that as a presumptive nominee, when he suggests taking away a group's rights he now has to do it "respectfully."

South Carolina is not the only proud state to waste taxpayer dollars on "bathroom bills" and bills that would keep out refugees and prevent Sharia Law from infiltrating our courts.  Because right wing radicals continue to foster fear and hatred, we have our own home-grown assault rifle toting paranoids to contend with.  In a totally irony-free atmosphere, state and federal legislators have caused such a panic over our rights and our safety that they have unleashed the very wackos we should be concerned about, who kill in the name of protecting the country from killers.

Fueled by the NRA which is controlled by arms manufacturers, our legislators have once again failed to pass even the most basic gun controls.  Paul Ryan, never before concerned about the rights of people kept off planes because they were wrongly put on the no-fly list is now expressing his concern for people that would wrongly lose their right to buy a gun.  And how about this pretzel-shaped rationale:  by refusing to sell a gun to someone on the no-fly list we would be jeopardizing national security by alerting them to the fact that they are being watched....  Hmm, you mean like if they are told they can't get on a plane???

Which leaves us all waiting for the next mass shooting.  And while we are waiting, innocent people continue to be killed on the streets, in bars, at home.  And the rage goes on. 

1 comment:

  1. my comment: Good overview of the foolishness of historical bigotry in our "great" nation. What always amazes me is how few people understand how stupid and destructive it is.